The convenience of the sharing economy.

Words, Mark Kirkbride, hubbul

Loyalty exists everywhere - it’s subconscious, it’s habitual. From your favourite coffee shops, bars, TV programmes and clothes, right through to where you work, where you sleep and everything else, loyalty plays a big part in our decision making and buying habits.

When our favourite brands launch new products and services our loyalty makes us buy them. And with every promotion, freebie and special offer, our loyalty grows.

In fact, there’s only one thing we love more than loyalty, and that’s convenience - getting what we want, exactly when we want it, with zero effort.

As time starved consumers we’re increasingly driven by the ultimate convenience of real-time choice, on-demand. We book taxis with Uber, order takeaways with JustEat, make reservations with Open Table, watch movies with Netflix, book a doctor with Zesty and rent accommodation with AirBnB - you get the picture.

But it’s not just the consumers who love loyalty - businesses do too. Loyal customers equals repeat business, which delivers sustainable business growth. Put simply loyalty means more cash. So it makes perfect sense that businesses spend massive amounts of time and money re-investing in retaining loyal and valued customers. And when loyalty is combined with convenience, everyone’s a winner.

The relationship between time and loyalty...

Apart from family and friends, loyalty shifts from one thing to the next. In other words, time changes our loyalties. Look at it like this: just because you once wore an 80’s shell suit, doesn’t mean that’s your everlasting fashion incarceration. Loyalty is just another phase of time.

Over time the motivations of the modern workforce have changed, and the days of trudging to the same desk for a decade are beginning to die a very quick and welcome ‘proactive workplace euthanasia’.

How is loyalty changing the workforce?

We all want to hire loyal people. You know the type - those dream employees who actually look forward to coming to work, arrive early, stay late and go above and beyond to satisfy customers.

But depending on who you ask, the explosion of the on-demand economy will either create unregulated entrepreneurial chaos or a utopian world of self-governance, where individual workers take care of themselves and everyone lives happily ever after. Either way, the age of a one-job-career is well and truly out the window.

The challenge for employers is that we’ve now entered an era where loyalty is constantly moving from one employer to the next.

In the traditional workplace loyalty is very one sided. The employer protects and care’s for the worker, gives them regular praise and has a lovely little employee handbook to ensure everyone fits the ideal worker category - tick! The worker gets an annual appraisal, inflationary salary increases and heads to the obligatory annual conference for the rare opportunity to be alcoholically induced so they can be honest with their boss.

Modern, forward-thinking and businesses in the on-demand world, have stuck the proverbial middle finger up at the tired-out and traditional stereotype of employee loyalty.

Loyalty is disrupting how we engage and manage our workforce...

Look at Netflix, who have dumped the formality of set holiday time, binned the bureaucratic expenses policy, ditched annual appraisals and performance related bonuses, and enabled employees to invest their salary into stock options and balanced their salary accordingly. Netflix employees are all empowered to “Always act in the interest of the company” and “Be responsible for the culture of the company”. Simple.

At Netflix, if you see a better career opportunity elsewhere, you should take it, along with what you’ve earned and leave. It’s a workplace that treats people like adults, and accepts that workplace loyalty is the workers decision in both time and money. During 2013 alone Netflix stock more than tripled, and its US subscriber base grew to 29 million. It clearly works.

The new workplace loyalty model is a hell of a lot simpler too. The employer provides the worker with interesting and challenging work in a productive environment. The worker commits to putting in the effort required to deliver the tasks and produce relevant results - which they achieve on a regular basis. When one or both sides of this balance are no longer possible, the relationship and the loyalty ends.

Temptation is everywhere...

We get tempted by, and seek out new things in our everyday lives, and it makes sense that the modern workforce does exactly the same.

In the modern on-demand world, loyalty can and does change quickly. It can be won and lost instantly as people seek the ultimate convenience of choice, flexibility and more work that motivates them.

Let’s take ‘Decade Dan’ (and we all know one), who, out of curiosity looks at a job on his smartphone because he simply wants to make sure he’s paid what he should be and his benefits are up to date.

‘Decade Dan’ doesn’t need a CV anymore because he’s got a social profile with - yep you guessed it - a decade of positive reviews and recommendations. For the first time in ten years, ‘Decade Dan’ applies to this job in the single tap of a button and has a response within a couple of hours. Whether he’s offered the job or not it doesn’t matter - his loyalty has gone.

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Motivations for loyalty...

The truth is that loyalty hasn’t changed at all - it remains a function of how people are treated and rewarded. Even though today’s marketplace might move faster than ever, loyalty is still built on the same foundation of need - a need for people to trust one another to go the extra mile, to find creative solutions to problems and to work together to complete goals.

 It’s the motivations of people that have changed loyalty in the workplace.

We’re driven by the desire for convenience and flexibility. We’re swapping the corporate coop for cool coffee shops, fake turfed office spaces and more liberating environments. We’re taking control of our own career development, tempted by new technologies, expanding into new markets, developing new products and services, and feeling like a key contributor to projects.

The on-demand economy is unlikely to be a happy experience for people who value stability more than flexibility. But with continuous demand for skills,  corporate talent pooling and flexible working will become the norm. It’s now only a matter of time before the on-demand economy offers the workforce the ultimate solution; flexibility, stability and convenience.

 The reality is that loyalty is being replaced by convenience. And sat right at the forefront of convenience is the on-demand economy. The on-demand economy shows no signs of slowing down in a post-recession, technology-driven world. Though, figuring out how to build a fluid, yet loyal hybrid workforce will be key in the HR agenda in years to come.

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